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The role of prophenoloxidase activation in non-self recognition and phagocytosis by insect blood cells

Journal of Insect Physiology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0022-1910(85)90072-1
  • Prophenoloxidase System
  • Haemocytes
  • Phagocytosis
  • Immunorecognition
  • Opsonins
  • Insects
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Medicine


Abstract Experiments indicate that the prophenoloxidase activating system, which is responsible for melanin production, is also involved in immunorecognition in insects. Using haemocyte monolayer preparations of Blaberus craniifer, Galleria mellonella and Leucophae maderae, it was shown that laminarin, a β 1,3-glucan extracted from fungal cell walls and an activator of the prophenoloxidase system, enhanced the phagocytosis of test bacteria. Scanning electron microscopy of haemocyte monolayers showed that incubation of test bacteria with laminarin significantly increased the number of microorganisms attached to both the plasmatocytes and the granular cells. Furthermore with the granular cells, these bacteria became entrapped in an amorphous matrix. This material probably consists of the “sticky” proteins previously reported to be produced by crustacean haemocytes following prophenoloxidase activation. Pretreatment of haemocytes with laminarin abolished the stimulatory effect on ingestion, indicating that these “sticky” proteins are opsonic, since they would have been discharged from the haemocytes onto the glass monolayer leaving few molecules available for subsequent coating of the test particles. Preliminary biochemical studies on the G. mellonella prophenoloxidase system demonstrated that it was activated by trypsin, laminarin and laminarin G, a highly purified β 1,3-glucan, but not by dextran. Serine protease activities were also enhanced by adding laminarin to a haemocyte lysate supernatant, suggesting that the stimulatory mechanism may involve the proteolytic activity of such enzymes.

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